Monday, May 30, 2005

Do Boys Die for Girl Power?

A recent Seattle PI has a poignant column about a recent spate of teen suicides in King County. It makes you think, but the reporter, Claudia Rowe, refused to dwell on the most important characteristic three recent suicides in the Seattle area shared - they were all boys. Not surprisingly, neither Vagina Warrior Susan Paynter nor the PI Editorial Board deemed it necessary to point out this simple fact in their related columns today.

In an age when politicians are irresponsible enough to make impossible promises like, "Even one ________ is too many," or, "Zero tolerance," it is easy to loose sight of the simple fact that we cannot prevent every tragedy. Some kids, as with some adults, will commit suicide. Some will die in car accidents, some will become paraplegics on the high school football field, and others will get involved in drugs or crime. These things will happen, seemingly randomly, despite our best efforts.

I suspect many of our readers have crossed paths with suicide. I did a while ago when the son of a family that lived just behind my own family's home committed suicide in high school. He was five years younger and I had already gone off to college by the time this occurred. I came home for the funeral to find his parents and sister lost in the inexplicable.

He seemed to be a happy kid when I last saw him proudly driving by my parent's house in his red convertible Mustang, waving to me. From everything I heard, he was a popular kid in school and I know his parents maintained a stable and comfortable home for him. There were no answers then and there still are none. Sometimes, these things just happen.

To admit this reality of the human condition is not to give up or become complacent in our efforts to avoid tragedy when possible. It does help set the stage for accepting the inevitable when we are unlucky enough to have it cross our paths.

After all, to completely avoid any sort of tragedy involving our children, we would have to coddle them to such a degree that they would never be able to function in the world outside our homes. And, as most parents of teenagers know, a teenager wants to be spoiled, but not necessarily coddled, so efforts you make in that regard are likely not to succeed anyway. But, this does not excuse us from examining the nature of teen suicide and the environment that might promote it.

In so doing, one has to ask why the rate of teenage male suicide is five times that of teenage female suicide. In fact, the media rarely notes this reality, even though the statistic is as cold, hard, and indisputable as a corpse. This is one of the most pressing mysteries of our time.

Any other statistic of such magnitude would surely receive immense attention. Schools were practically turned upside in the early 1990s when Carol Gilligan said that girls "loose their voice" in high school. She had no scientific evidence to support her claim as she based it on nothing more than anecdotal stories. But, with hundreds of women studies programs in universities around the country preaching the gender feminist doctrine, and vocal women's groups hogging media attention, politicians and school officials jumped on cue. This was a sign, said gender feminists, of the point in women's lives where the dreaded patriarchy begins its oppression of women. In your face "girl power" had thus begun.

Now, schools have effectively squeezed many of the things boys need out of the system. School environments as well as curriculums have been feminized and a war has been raging, according to Christina Hoff-Sommers, on boys for years. As a result, boys have dramatically lower grade point averages than girls, are several times more likely to drop out of school, and are now a minority on college campuses.

And, all the while, they have been committing suicide at astounding rates with nary a peep from politicians, school administrators, or the media. Even the PI's article, which focused on three recent suicides of boys, could do no more than note that boys commit suicide at five times the rate of girls. There was no further reflection on why this disparity exists.

Some might say that the world is a gloomier place than it once was, with terrorist attacks, war in Iraq, and the political divide the media so loves to exaggerate and exploit. But, previous generations have faced similarly gloomy and perhaps more ominous times. The 1970's saw Watergate, economic stagnation, accelerating inflation, OPEC cartels, the depths of the cold war, and a hostage crisis in Iran that the US seemed completely incapable of handling. But, the rate of teen suicide tripled only after that gloomy decade as things improved overall for the country in the 1980s. Both girls and boys are affected equally be the ramifications of these events in their daily lives, so the national or global outlook does not explain why the suicide rate for boys is five times higher than it is for girls.

For its part, the PI chose to focus on the pressures high school kids face to succeed. This pressure may be greater than it once was, but that does not seem likely. There is no evidence of that and, again, this does not explain the disparity in teen suicide rates between boys and girls. The PI also alluded to the possibility of a trend, with guys immitating each other. But the rate has been high for several years now and trends move quickly through American youth.

There is one trend that is hard to deny, however. Boys are growing up in a culture that has institutionalized a strong bias against so many things that are natural, even biologically imperative, for them. Schools have taken the action out of their curriculum, favoring subtle and nuanced feelings that are more the world of the feminine. Boys, who need to run, test each other, and form hierarchies as a natural course of development, are instead being told to sit quietly through hours of school work they find boring.

If they cannot calm themselves, they are given Ritalin. Seattle public schools even mandate that many boys be given Ritalin before they can enroll.

The indoctrination of boys with the loathing of gender feminists begins early. Boys are barraged with messages that they are naturally inclined to violence and taught to despise themselves by teachers and school administrators who are all too often steeped in the ideology and bizarre theories of women studies programs. They see commercials on TV with little boys being told that they need to recognize their inner male demon before they grow up to be wife beaters. They attend schools were girls wear t-shirts that say, "Boys are stupid, throw rocks at them." And, increasingly, the structure and discipline provided by fathers is not present. Many of these fathers are driven out of their boy's lives by family courts that see them as nothing more than a source of child support.

All the while, as the world has turned against them and the attacks on everything they find natural are formed around them, they are faced with at least the same academic pressures as generations before. Is this the reason for the flurry of teen boy suicides? One cannot say for certain, but it is worth an honest look.

It is also high time for gender feminists to take a step back and take a good hard look at their own culture and what it has wreaked. Women studies departments are in place around every corner and receive state and federal funds. The infrastructure is there, the tenured professors have the time, and eager young college students are there to listen. Women frozen out of gender feminist discourse because of its intolerance for diverse views are doing their own re-examination of feminism in their own organizations, such as the Independent Women's Forum and iFeminists. Gender feminists should do the same.

You asked for it ladies; you got a room of your own. Perhaps that room should be used more wisely. Or, teenage boys may continue to die.


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